Most of us hope to be fit and to age gracefully. I love the image of my 90-something friend pulling up to my house with her husband (even older), both in colorful helmets on their recumbent bicycles. They could only stop for a few minutes to say hello because they had to finish their ride that day, then get ready for their cross country trip in their mobile home - They give new meaning to the advice “keep moving”!
On the other side, some of us have seen someone close to us decline and progress toward death on a difficult path. Being able to be present for that is to face our own mortality.
Is there anything we can do to be more like my 90+ friend on her bike as we age?
The answer is Yes! We can keep moving, and it doesn’t have to be hardcore exercise. Moving the joints each day as well as some leg strengthening can go a very long way to keeping most people agile and strong. It is great to do an hour-long ‘workout’ - yes. But if you only have time for that once a week or less, you can do something daily in just 10 - 15 minutes which will change the way you feel and improve your overall health in a big way.
Your Daily Practice
Here is the first thing I do each day - a gentle joint warmup to remove stiffness and get circulation flowing within the joints, ending with a squatting posture: Warm ups - Charanas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lK7GnP8kIeA&t=1s. There are many days that this is the only thing I have time for, but in the less than 7 minutes in the morning this takes, I feel like a new person!
If you have 5 - 10 additional minutes you can add leg strengthening in the form of a leg balance and squats. For balance, Tree pose - Vrksasana is wonderful, but can be challenging. Start by just standing with one foot off the ground. Build the time you can do this. You can then add the sole of one foot contacting the standing leg, moving it closer to the top of the leg as your hips become more open.
To build strength, moving down from standing to squatting and back up has been linked to longevity (as well as the ability to balance on one leg): “Can you stand on one foot?”. The great thing about squatting is that you can move only as much as is appropriate for you. To build strength gently, move just a few inches down and up, then build gradually over days or weeks.
Squats not only strengthen your legs, but the ability to be all the way down in a squat is the first step toward open hip joints. There are many types of squats to keep the leg bones strong. One you can start with is Ardha Mandala - half wheel squat: https://www.youtube.com/shorts/70BMOgFpb6I.
There is of course much more to learn from an experienced yoga teacher, even for the simple squat. So find a good teacher and deepen your knowledge. But no matter how many yoga classes you go to per week, there is nothing better than to develop a daily home practice, even if it is just 10 minutes per day.
Carrie has studied yoga for 30 years beginning with Iyengar yoga. In the last 10 years she has studied with Scott Blossom - a yoga teacher, Traditional Chinese (TCM) and Ayurvedic doctor, and Shadow Yoga teacher Emma Balnaves.